Israeli AffairsNews

American objection to Israeli law stifles human rights organizations

The Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs in the Israeli Knesset is expected to discuss, next Sunday, a draft law that would restrict associations and civil organizations from receiving donations from foreign governments.

This law mainly targets human rights organizations, which rely heavily on foreign donations, due to the limited resources they receive from parties in Israel. The law would also affect Israeli academic institutions, hospitals and others.

Haaretz newspaper reported, this evening, Wednesday, that US President Joe Biden’s administration criticized the law proposal, and informed Israel, through several channels, of its opposition to it.

The bill put forward by the Israeli Knesset member, Ariel Kleiner (Likud), stipulates imposing taxes of 65% on every association that receives financial support from external parties for activities and goals that address the public, without any right to obtain a reduction or exemption.

Taxes will also be imposed on donations received in the two years preceding the public activity or the two years following it, even if the activity was carried out by addressing one of the branches of government, including the courts or the Knesset, or even if the activity consisted of addressing the public through paid advertisements.

The content of the draft law stated that it aims, through imposing taxes, to “reduce the interference of foreign political entities in Israeli democracy (…) which takes place through financial support for non-profit associations and institutions, whose activities include interference in judicial matters in Israel, in political activity in government and municipal policy, or in the opinion of the general public.

The draft law also states that “the interference of foreign political entities in flooding the courts with legal procedures of a political nature, and in directly influencing public debate, in an attempt to change the policies of the government and local government (local authorities) constitutes an infringement on the basic characteristics of the independent State of Israel and an infringement on the sovereignty of its citizens.” .

The newspaper pointed out that the American objection to the law proposal came during personal phone calls made by the American ambassador to Israel, Tom Needs, with Israeli authorities.

About two weeks ago, the US delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Michelle Taylor, referred to the issue in a public statement, and said that “Israel must guarantee the freedom of work of human rights organizations and other non-governmental organizations, without exerting any economic or legal pressure on them, affecting their activities.” .

The issue of taxing civil organizations has led to strained relations between Israel and the United States since the period of former US President Barack Obama. And the US State Department warned in 2016 that the law that restricts civil labor organizations threatens democracy. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel also joined in denouncing the law at the time.

Under American pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to remove the proposal from the government’s agenda at that time.

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